Many Americans are wondering what a Trump presidency will mean for America’s relationship with Israel. I’d like to break through the media chatter and innuendo and offer some clarity.
Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump made it clear that he supports the Israeli people and Israel’s right to exist as a safe and prosperous Jewish state.
Jason Greenblatt who has worked for the Trump Organization for nearly 20 years is a top advisor to the president-elect on Middle East policy. Contrary to the Obama Administration’s constant haranguing, Greenblatt recently told the Jerusalem Post that Trump does not believe Israeli settlements are an obstacle to peace.
This contrasts with Hillary Clinton, who, as Obama’s secretary of state, said she wanted to “see a stop to Israeli settlement construction, additions, natural growth – any kind of settlement activity. That is what the president has called for.” In 2013, Hillary Clinton declared that additional settlement construction in East Jerusalem was “insulting.”
Greenblatt also said that Trump supports relocating the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, adding, “He is going to do it. [Donald Trump] is a man who keeps his word.”
Trump further believes Israel has a right to defend itself, something that was sometimes in question during the Obama presidency. This belief is most evident in Trump’s repeated calls to alter the Iran nuclear deal. Trump has called dismantling “the disastrous” deal “my number one priority.”
On the United Nations, Trump has said “The U.N. is not a friend of democracy, it’s not a friend to freedom, it’s not a friend even to the United States…and it’s surely not a friend to Israel.” He has vowed to “veto any attempt by the U.N. to impose its will on the Jewish State.”
A statement issued after the election by two chairmen of Trump’s Israel advisory committee stated, among other things, that the U.S. should veto any U.N. resolutions that unfairly single out Israel and any efforts to delegitimize Israel, “impose discriminatory double standards against Israel, or to impose special labeling requirements on Israeli products or boycotts on Israeli goods.”
When it comes to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Trump has said the Palestinians must realize that Israel is a Jewish state and that it must remain so. This is something the Palestinians have been willing to do, and that remains one of the chief obstacles to peace.
After Trump won the election, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he has known Trump for years and that the president-elect is “a true friend of the State of Israel.” Bibi also said he believes a Trump Administration “will continue to strengthen the unique alliance between our two countries and bring it to ever greater heights.”
Those last three words — “ever greater heights” — were a clear signal that the Israeli prime minister feels our relationship over the past eight years has not necessarily been the best it could have been. It also suggests that Donald Trump may be an even greater friend to Israel than past Republican presidents.
Days after the election, Trump said, “I love and respect Israel and its citizens. I look forward to strengthening the unbreakable bond between our two great peoples. I know well that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and that it is the only one that defends human rights, and that it is a ray of hope for many people.”
President-elect Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke the day after the election. Their conversation was described as “warm and heartfelt” and Trump invited Netanyahu to meet with him at the White House “at the first opportunity.” This contrasts with what can at best be described as an “icy” relationship between Obama and Netanyahu.
Likewise, Isaac Herzog, who leads Israel’s Zionist Union Party, sounded an optimistic note after Trump was elected. He said that with Trump’s win, “I am convinced that the security and economic alliance between Israel, and our strongest ally in the United States, will continue to strengthen under your presidency.”
All of this helps explain why Trump enjoyed such strong support among Israeli citizens. A March poll in Israel found that Trump was Israel’s favorite Republican candidate. A plurality also said that Trump would be the best candidate at “representing Israel’s interests.”
Trump advisors have also stated that his administration will ask the Justice Department to investigate coordinated attempts on college campuses to intimidate students who support Israel.
It is also revealing that Trump chose Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate. Pence had a strong pro-Israel record during his years in Congress, and he traveled with Christians United for Israel to the Holy Land in 2014.
I have known Mike Pence for many years and consider him a close, personal friend. His support for Israel derives from his strong, evangelical faith. He once said, “Let me say emphatically, like the overwhelming majority of my constituents, my Christian faith compels me to cherish the state of Israel.”
Many journalists and pundits have said that Trump’s position on Israel is “unclear.” But on multiple fronts, the transition between President Obama and President Trump is revealing major differences in policy and politics. The biggest may be on America’s relationship with Israel.
America’s millions of Christian Zionists look forward to working with the new administration and Congress to strengthen the US-Israel alliance and defend Judeo-Christian civilization.
Gary Bauer is the Washington Director of the Christians United for Israel Action Fund.